Editor's Note: Founded in 2002 and based in Jiangsu Province, China, Fareast is a manufacturer of sailing craft ranging in size from small Optimist dinghies to 36-foot sailing catamarans. Several Fareast models are already popular in Europe, so when the boats.com Germany team had a chance to take a spin on one of the builder’s newest creations—the Fareast 18—they jumped at the opportunity.
The Fareast 18 is a Simonis/Voogd design with conservative good looks, a retractable keel with ballast bulb, enclosed cabin, and a powerful rig. The design is narrow, with a closed stern, which is rare on sailboats this size, as is an enclosed cabin. There’s 237 square feet of sail area between the main and jib. Add in the 301-square-foot gennaker (there’s a retractable bowsprit, too) and you’re talking serious horsepower for an 18-foot sailboat.
We sailed the boat on Flensburg Fjord and discovered that it’s delectable to sail. Leaving the marina, it felt like a super-sized dinghy with a lively helm. There’s beautiful North Sail canvas that catches every breath of the breeze. The boat converts those breaths into speed, all without a whole lot of intervention by the crew, which made it hard for us to turn the helm over to other crew members. In four knots of breeze upwind, the Fareast 18 managed 3.8 knots, tacking through about 90 degrees. As is usual on small boats, the motion through the water felt faster than it really was and Ann Kristin, who normally sails a 49er FX, was enthusiastic about the performance: “You really don’t need more boat,” she said.
Even though the wind was very light during the test, the boat felt so agile, and accelerated so nimbly, that it’s safe to expect little change in the level of fun when the breeze is up. Above 15 knots of true wind speed, the Fareast 18 should exceed hull speed on a reach, planing along at 10 to 12 knots without problems. That’s nice for dinghy sailors who might have a tough time getting used to the often ponderous feeling of small cruising boats. These sailors also know to appreciate the Fareast’s deck hardware consisting of quality products from Seldén and Harken. The only shortcoming on the test boat was the diameter of the mainsheet, which was too small. The line easily handles the load, but requires gloves to be gripped and held with any measure of comfort.
On deck it all seems to be fine for novices and alumni of smaller classes. But what kind of interior can be realistically expected in this price segment? Despite the sizable cabin, the Fareast 18 is neither a space ship nor does it want to be one. Below deck on the the fiberglass, molded liner feels as if it needs some bunk cushions, and indeed, you can check them on the options list. Some molded cubbies and two seat lockers in the cockpit swallow the necessities; the rest is up to your creativity. Types like Ann Kristin are absolutely happy with this kind of fit-out, while others might want to add canvas lockers and maybe a portable pantry for added coziness.
With the proper gear, this little keel yacht has enough space for two to survive a two-week trip. The headroom of four feet under the companionway hatch suffices to put on foulies. The sitting headroom of three feet in the forepeak is reasonably comfortable. Ditto with the size of the berth: 92 by 55 inches offers more than enough space. What’s missing is a foredeck hatch or a secondary opening for venting the interior. The rounded and forward reaching cabin trunk makes it difficult to retrofit an aftermarket product, which is irksome. The cabin is completely sealed off aft and parts of the interior are used for buoyancy, hence there is no access.
|Sail Area||235 sq. ft.|
Nevertheless, there is enough total stowage volume to load down this boat enough to ruin its stellar sailing performance. Maybe it is okay to leave off additional lockers and compartments and the temptation to burden the boat with household kit. As open as the interior is the trunk of the lifting keel, which can be cranked up for the road with a small crane that is inserted laterally. It’s not a solution for daily use, however. In venues where the slender T-shaped keel might cause problems (i.e. by snagging kelp), a more sensible choice might be the traditionally shaped fixed keel, which also has a four foot draft.
Every component in the Fareast 18 is produced with vacuum-infusion technology, including the hull, deck, rudder blade, and keel fin. The ballast bulb is lead, the curved tiller is made of carbon fiber, and the core material for the hull and deck sandwich is PVC foam. Everything is finished in near-industrial quality, which goes to show the advances that have been made by the yard. While some interior components of the Fareast 26 could be categorized as below average a few years ago, not one manufacturing detail on the Fareast 18 was cause for alarm. Especially well done is the hull-to-deck joint.
While the Fareast 18 has its limitations (though not many), we found it to be very capable, well thought out, and extremely well built. And none of those qualities would have been expected from a Chinese yard a decade ago.
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For more information, visit Fareast Boats.